Energy Consumption: What kind of energy monitoring systems are out there? Will they lower my power bill?

Your home’s energy consumption might be out of control.   You might not know where it is all coming from.   You may have already tried to fix it but haven’t really seen the impact that you want.   An energy monitor can help you identify high consumption areas, manage it, monitor progress, and a lot more.

There are a growing number of monitoring systems out there.  How do you know which features are important or worth the money?  I think it is important to think about what you want out of a monitoring and control system before you spend your money.   For that reason I left out product names specifically.

energy monitoring framework

Shown above is a framework to think about the different types of energy monitoring systems.  I included the elements of control as well.   As you search the internet you will find a whole array of offerings and a wide range of price tags.   Let’s frame it from low to high-end.

A low-end monitoring system will be able to tell you exactly how much energy your house is consuming at each moment along with some historical data.  It only measures incoming electricity and cannot discern what in your home is actually on or off.   Many readers may think that this is sufficient but I would offer that this type of system will place the entire burden on you to play Detective in your home.   You will spend countless hours trying to figure out how to leverage the data to save money.   While it does provide accurate information this type of system has a high probability of becoming a useless novelty.   These devices can cost a couple hundred dollars.

A high-end system will give you by circuit and by appliance monitoring along with control of each device.   Don’t get me wrong.  Someday I want that just because it is cool.   However, this comes with a hefty price tag and far exceeds its utility.   If you want control of your home while you are away so that specific appliances will come on then buy some timers.   After you spend the money on a high-end system you will quickly realize that you don’t need that much information at the appliance level nor do you need that control.   These systems can cost several thousand dollars.

Think about the right hybrid system.   Tracking information at the circuit level provides enough detail that you can understand and affect your savings.  Circuit level detail generally avoids the risk of bogging you down in the details of every appliance.  I would much prefer a report that says your AC unit or your family room or your pool is on/off/ trending 5% higher/etc..  Additionally, when it is on I want to know exactly how much it is consuming.   Actual data will often differ from manufacturer labeling.

Having an onboard detective is a minimum requirement.  An analytics engine will do 99% of the detective work.   You don’t have to be a rocket scientist nor do you have to give up free time to take advantage of the system.   An analytics engine that detects changes in patterns or conditions that you define should be able to text you.   Alerts empower you to take action by giving you the right information at the right time.

Not only is an analytics engine a time saver but it is critical to lowering your bills.  Consider a system that forces you to analyze the data.   You may be motivated to lower your bill but you will quickly run out of steam if you have to play detective every time you are looking to make an improvement.

WiFi is not just about seeing what your home is doing but also providing you with control of key appliances like your AC/Heating units.   Being able to understand what your heating and air cost is and control it remotely allows you the maximum opportunity to lower your bill.  A hybrid system should cost the average home between eight hundred and twelve hundred dollars.

Hopefully, this helps you think about what type of monitoring system you need.

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